As an attendee at PASS Summit, I had the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of topics, including public speaking. I’ll be devoting other blogs to the great technical things I learned, but I thought I would start by talking about the sessions in general. I saw a number of presentations, some which went well, others which were beset by technical difficulties. By far the best talk I saw was the keynote with Rimma Nehme and David DeWitt of Microsoft. The presentation was well rehearsed without sounding canned, and the slides were absolutely amazing. You can check out the slides here as they are publically available. I am going to remember what made this talk work, and hope to incorporate what I saw here when I speak next. If you are interested in where that will be, check out my Engagement page as maybe we can meet sometime.
I saw a number of different speaking techniques employed at Speaker Idol. People were really creative. Todd Kleinhans navigated through a game interface. Wes Springbob did an homage to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. By the way, if you haven’t read the series, I think you should as they are great books. I was surprised that all of the judges hadn’t read the books, but even those who didn’t thought he gave a great talk. I demonstrated that I had never used a microphone before, which was not positive. Bill Wolf worked to engage the audience throughout his talk. Ed Watson videotaped his demo. This technique is something that often I have heard that you should do in case your demo crashes, but this was the first time I have seen anyone who actually did record the demo. William Durkin brought great stage presence, which I noticed was a common theme among all of the talks I liked. Effective presenters know their topic so well that the talk should appear effortless and fun, without appearing that a script has been memorized that you are working to run through. Also, remember to have a point to follow during the presentation so I remember what the talk was about midway through. Everyone who did this I thought did a great job.
Speaker Idol Results
The finalist for Speaker Idol were William Durkin b | t , Theresea Iserman t, and David Maxwell b | t. My name was not there, due to my issues with the microphone, which put me off my game. Also despite my goal of not adding useless words, I threw in many “um” and “so” into my talk. In my round, William did the best job, so it was logical that he went forward. I talked to David and Theresa about their respective talks, and I know they put a lot of work and practice making them really good. David was the winner, so I look forward to seeing him at PASS Summit 2016 giving the talk of his choice. As for me, I hope to follow the pattern of fellow Speaker Idol 2014 non-winner Reeves Smith b | t who spoke at PASS Summit for the first time this year the old-fashioned way, by picking a good topic and writing a good abstract for it.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur
If one wants to get better at public speaking, there is no better way of doing that than to practice. Personally I think the best experience are where you are giving a talk to an audience, as that seems to improve my performance better than speaking to a mirror. I also read a lot of blogs regarding public speaking hoping to learn some tips. One of the things I know not to do, but I do anyway is add in those nothing works like “um” or “ah”. I know that I shouldn’t. I also know I shouldn’t procrastinate, but I find myself doing that sometimes as well. Sometimes you have to figure out ways to make yourself do things, like making a deadline so you can hit it or putting yourself in a situation where you are asking people to criticize your speaking skills. If the goal is to get better, I think you have to move yourself out of the comfort zone you may be occupying in order to make that happen.
Speaking as a Competitive Sport
For those of you who haven’t heard of PASS Speaker Idol, which is understandable since it has only been around for a year, it is a competition where 12 people compete by giving a five minute technical speech on a topic of their choice in front of an audience and a panel of judges. There are four rounds of competition, and 3 people will advance to the finals. The winner will get to speak at PASS Summit next year on a topic of their choice. Here are all the competitors, and the competition times. If you are at PASS Summit hopefully you can attend some of the sessions.
Wednesday (3:15pm – 4:30pm)
- Todd Kleinhans
- William Durkin
- Ginger Grant
- Ed Watson
Thursday (4:45pm – 6:00pm)
- Rob Volk
- Amy Herold
- Bill Wolf
- Wes Springob
Friday (2:00pm – 3:15pm)
- Luciano Caixeta Moreira
- Ronald Dameron
- Theresa Iserman
- David Maxwell
You will notice I am going on the first day. I’ve decided to give a talk on SSIS, and figured out how to talk for only five minutes. I’ve been practicing, run through my demo, and took pictures of the demo in case it doesn’t work that day. After reading everything I could find on what happened last year, I’m feeling pretty good about my chances. Many thanks to Rob Volk t | b on all of the great information he put out about last year’s competition. A big thanks also to Denny Cherry t | b for not only starting the Speaker Idol contest but doing it again this year.
Winning Good Information
Regardless how the competition turns out, I will win information from those people who watch me speak how I can be a better speaker. Hopefully they won’t catch me saying “um” but I plan on learning how to apply some of the other things I learn to improve my talks the next time. If you are interested in where I am speaking next time, please take a look at the Engagements page on my blog where I list everywhere I have or will be speaking. One of the places I will be speaking is at the PASS Business Analytics Conference in May. I am thrilled to be able to talk about Implementing Successful Data Analytics Management Practices for two hours. After this week, I’m sure that presentation, and others will be even better than they would be. If you want to know how Speaker Idol turns out, please subscribe to my blog where I will be letting you know how it all turned out.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur